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6 ways to maximize limited ad budgets

6 ways to maximize limited ad budgets Lori Goldberg

For businesses spending under a few million dollars in annual digital advertising, there are plenty of good deals and tips on how to optimize your dollars. However, you're likely competing with larger brands in your space that have far greater spending capabilities. Take back a little market share with these six strategies:

Short-term Facebook ads to kick-start your community building

Advertising on Facebook doesn't require teams of people with elaborate keyword bidding technology only available to big brands. With Facebook ads, businesses with limited budgets can build community the old fashioned way -- by paying for it. With amazing targeting options, small businesses can buy their way into the hearts and minds of this global marketplace. Once you've acquired a large base of followers, kill the campaign and grow through socially organic community building.

Utilize trading desks to reduce costs and improve strategy

Trading desks were created to lower the cost of overhead involved in hiring agencies to perform labor-intensive media buying and strategy across multiple networks and media types. Today, trading desks provide much of the real-time bidding that takes place in digital advertising, plus great analytics to prove efficacy of your ad buying strategy. As costs have fallen, a trading desk (there are many to choose from) is managed by top agencies and smaller boutiques, serving minimal budgets. In addition to the convenience, your trading desk will give you better insight into your campaign performance. For example, for a recent travel client, we realized the typical flight aggregator sites were cluttered with competing ads -- nothing was standing out and connecting with consumers. Instead, we moved our budget over to an exchange offering behaviorally targeted media segments that were reaching destination travelers in their feeder markets.

Build community on social media

You've heard this before -- we tweet in our personal lives and have hundreds of followers in tow, so why can't we achieve the same success for our business? We can. Big brands employ the 80/20 rule and share relevant content to customers in the same way you would friends. Sell only 20 percent of the time and let the community build organically through natural conversation and learning. Twice a day substitute email for Twitter and tweet a question or comment at someone you want as a follower. Repeat and watch it grow.

Barter and trade your marketing content

Most companies have an email list of their customers, and if you don't -- you should. A quality list is money; it has high value as barter or trade with other companies like yours.  Major brands would pay big dollars for a great list. Find another company in your space -- not a competitor -- but a company that provides a complimentary service. Offer your email list in trade for theirs, and repeat until your list rivals that of major brands.

Target regional markets in AdWords

There is no better way for the little guy to trump the big brand than with pay-per-click, particularly AdWords. Google likes quality campaigns matched with quality websites -- and ad ranking is available to the highest bidder. Big brands and small businesses are truly on a level playing field here. For businesses with a limited budget however, a national ad campaign may not be an effective strategy. Penetration will be shallow given the breadth of the campaign and results will produce very little data per market. Solution: Compete regionally -- not nationally -- in small markets that you can own (or at least be competitive). The rich data you get from your campaigns will give you better intelligence to later go after the major markets with greater success.

Turn good customer reviews into ad optimization

A good customer experience has never been more influential. While it's common for big brands to lack the one-on-one customer relationship that makes small businesses thrive, a 5-star review on Google can now propel your AdWords ad to the top. Google includes customer reviews in its algorithm, enabling small businesses with great customer feedback to leap-frog other brands in ad ranking.

Lori Goldberg is CEO of Silverlight Digital.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Lori Goldberg is CEO of Silverlight Digital, a New York-based digital media agency. Goldberg leads a hands-on team in developing digital advertising strategies for national and local brands, including Meda Pharmaceuticals, Aetrex Footwear,...

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